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Archive for the ‘Work Programme’ Category

Cognitive Therapy for the Unemployed: G4S Crooks to Deliver ‘Service’ in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

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“We are saving the taxpayer £120 million a year in benefit savings.” Sean Williams – Welfare to Work, Managing Director, G4S.

Carillon’s collapse, which involved the farce of having fire-engines on standby today in Oxfordshire in case the company could not deliver school meals for one of their many outsourced contracts, has not stopped the government from continuing their policy of giving large sums of money to private companies to deliver ‘services’.

 The problems of Universal Credit have tended to obscure other aspects of the government’s welfare policy.

One of the most outrageous sides  is this, which we have previously posted on.

It is part of the Work and Health Programme, rolling out this year.

The key service providers are:

Service Providers

It will be run by five service providers across six regions in England and Wales. The successful providers were:

  • Shaw Trust (Central England and Home Counties)
  • Reed in Partnership (North East)
  • Ingeus (North West)
  • Pluss (Southern)
  • Remploy (Wales)

But some parts of the programme are delivered by other ‘providers’.

Last year this was reported by Brian Wheeler on the BBC site. June 2015.

Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.

Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.

This year (2016)  they took a step forward in their plans,

Disabled activists are to march on a surgery next month in protest at its involvement in a government scheme that is placing welfare-to-work advisors from a discredited US outsourcing giant in GP practices.

In 2017 the Guardian published this letter signed  by more than 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics signed an open letter   protesting against chancellor George Osborne’s plans, laid out in the latest budget, to embed psychological therapy in a coercive back-to-work agenda.

The linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy”, as announced in the chancellor’s latest budget, this is totally unacceptable. “Get to work therapy” is manifestly not therapy at all. With the ominous news that Maximus (the US company replacing Atos to do work capability assessments) will also be managing the new national Fit for Work programme, it is time for the field’s key professional organisations to wake up to these malign developments, and unequivocally denounce such so-called “therapy” as damaging and professionally unethical.

More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room. This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health. For now, we call on all the parties in this election – and particularly Labour – to make it clear that they will urgently review such anti-therapeutic practices, and appropriately refashion their much-trumpeted commitment to mental health if and when they enter government.

To remind us of this Kitty S jones wrote last year

A major concern that many of us have raised is regarding consent to participation, as, if benefit conditionality is attached to what ought to be a voluntary engagement, that undermines the fundamental principles of the right to physical and mental care. Such an approach would reduce psychologists to simply acting as agents of state control, enforcing compliance and conformity. That is not therapy: it’s psychopolitics and policy-making founded on a blunt behaviourism, which is pro-status quo, imbued with Conservative values and prejudices. It’s an approach that does nothing whatsoever to improve public life or meet people’s needs.

Kitty noted that,

The highly controversial security company G4S are currently advertising for Cognitive Behavioural Therapists to deliver “return-to-work” advise in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

This is yet another lucrative opportunity for private companies to radically reduce essential provision for those that really need support, nonetheless, costing the public purse far more to administer than such an arrangement could possibly save, despite the government’s dogged determination to rip every single penny from sick and disabled people and drive them into low paid, insecure jobs.

Yes, G4S is a player in the delivery of the “new Work and Health Programme 2017 – 2020/21. Commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, the programme is intended to assist people who are long term unemployed or who have disabilities and health conditions into work.”

Well it was all announced.

For those with the stomach to read it you can see this many pages long Wiki entry:

Controversies surrounding G4S

At the start of last year this  was one response.

G4S, Maximus and ‘A4E’ all set to win contracts under Work and Health Programme

Some of the country’s most controversial and discredited outsourcing companies are set to win contracts under the government’s new programme to find jobs for disabled people and other marginalised groups.

The 11 organisations that have been successful in the bidding process will be allowed to tender for the back-to-work contracts that will be offered under the Work and Health Programme.

They were all bidding for the right to tender for contracts across six regional areas in England and Wales, and a single national contract across the two countries.

The Work and Health Programme will support disabled people, those who are long-term unemployed, and other groups such as ex-carers, ex-offenders, homeless people and those with drug or alcohol dependencies.

Among those successful in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Umbrella Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services were Maximus, People Plus (formerly known as A4E) and G4S.

G4S has been successful in every area apart from Wales, while People Plus has been successful in all seven lots.

Maximus, through its UK company Remploy, has been selected only for the Wales lot.

Maximus has a disturbing track record of discrimination, incompetence and fraud in the US, while Remploy, formerly owned by the government, revealed plans last year to halve the pay of service-users who take part in inspections of health and care facilities.

Last year, Maximus was accused in the House of Commons of falsifying the results of “fitness for work” assessments, and of “a disconcerting pattern of behaviour that indicates that the trade-off between cost-cutting and profit maximisation is being felt by very vulnerable people”.

People Plus, which has secured places in all seven lots, was formerly known as A4E, but in 2015 was taken over by another company and rebranded, after 10 former A4e employees were sentenced for a back-to-work fraud.

The previous year, DNS reported allegations that emerged during an employment tribunal – and were strongly refuted by the company – that A4E had introduced a new policy that forced advisers with no specialist training or experience to start working with “vulnerable” claimants with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol problems on the Work Programme.

Last year, the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, criticising the decision to hand the government contract to run the national discrimination helpline to G4S, told fellow peers that the company had “an appalling history of abuse and mismanagement”.

G4S’s track record includes claims of assault and racism at immigration detention centres, the failure to provide enough security staff for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a coroner’s verdict of “unlawful killing” at the hands of G4S staff after the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga in 2010, and serious allegations concerning G4S staff at secure training centres for children.

The other successful organisations are Ingeus, Reed, Shaw Trust, APM, Working Links, The Work Company, Pluss and Prospects.

Many of the country’s largest disability charities are likely to seek funding under the Work and Health Programme as sub-contractors for the organisations that win the main contracts, in a move which many activists believe could make it harder for them to speak out on welfare reform.

The Work and Health Programme will replace the mainstream Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice scheme for disabled people, but there have been concerns that it will see a significant cut in funding.

The government has promised £100 million a year by 2020-21 for disabled people found to have limited capability for work – paid for from cuts of more than £1 billion over the four years from April this year to new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) – as well as another £130 million a year for the overall programme.

But industry research has suggested that this will mean a sizeable overall drop from the £750 million spent on employment support in 2013-14.

DWP said yesterday (Wednesday) that it did not recognise this figure but was not able to say how much the overall budget on employment support had been and how much it would be under the new programme.

She said the budget for the new programme was not yet “in the public domain”.

Asked about the track records of Maximus, G4S and People Plus, the DWP spokeswoman said the umbrella agreement had been subject to public sector procurement regulations, and was conducted in an “open, transparent non-discriminatory manner”.

She said: “Each competition is designed to identify the winning bids over a range of pre-determined criteria.”

She said contracts would be awarded this autumn.

Meanwhile, the consultation on the government’s work, health and disability green paper – which outlines its plans for the Work and Health Programme – is due to end tomorrow (17 February).

The green paper revealed that the government was considering forcing all sick and disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits to take part in “mandatory” activity, including those who are terminally-ill or have the very highest support needs and have been placed in the ESA support group.

It also repeatedly emphasised that the government wanted to “reinforce work as a health outcome”, increasing the number of job advisers in healthcare settings and making “the benefits of work an ingrained part of the training and professional approach of the health and social care workforce”.

It will be interesting to see how this lot fare in the present climate of private provider failure…

Esther McVee has got off to a flying start!

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Brexit: Welfare Under Attack.

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As Teresa May speaks on Brexit today we will hear a lot about how the free movement of labour in Europe will be ended. That it is has helped create unemployment.

We will hear about ” building a “stronger” and a “fairer” country and creating a “truly Global Britain”.

This is the reality of what is what is happening and what they plan for the unemployed.

The Mirror reported this a couple of days ago.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK could change its economic model towards a US-style low tax, low welfare one as a result of Brexit .

His comments came after Theresa May angered Remainers by pushing for a hard Brexit that will take us out of the single market and customs union.

This is already happening.

And this:

Universal Credit has pushed 86% of claimants in council housing into rent arrears Welfare Weekly.

Shocking research reveals Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit has left almost 9 in 10 claimants living in council housing in rent arrears.

Joint research from the NFA and ARCH reveals almost nine in ten Universal Credit (UC) claimants living in council housing are in rent arrears, two and a half years after Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship new benefit was introduced.

The research charted the impact of UC on the rent arrears of claimants living in council owned homes and found 86% are in arrears, up from 79% in March 2016, with 59% of these more than a month behind on their rent.

Although 63% of UC tenants in arrears had pre-existing arrears before their UC claim only 44% of them are on APAs (alternative payment arrangements with direct payment from DWP).

The average value of rent arrears owed by UC claimants living in council housing has almost doubled since 31 March 2016, from £321 to £615.

  • With the Benefit Freeze we will see people increasingly unable to cope with rising prices.
  • With Universal Credit we will see more and more people falling into arrears and debt: Food Banks will become a normal part of the ‘welfare’ state.
  • With the Work and Health Programme we will see more bogus courses, more dodgy people from the welfare-to-work industry making a pile, and more sanctions.

Some fairer society!

As James Bloodworth says:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

Government shakeout of welfare to work: what will it mean for benefit claimants?

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What they didn’t mention on above…

Thousands of jobs to go in government shakeout of welfare to work sector The Guardian (just now).

“The sector is said to be preparing for a ‘bloodbath’.”

Funding to shrink by 75% from March when work programme is replaced by much smaller work and health programme.

Thousands of experienced employment coaches are expected to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as ministers trigger the first stage of a massive shakeout of the government-funded welfare to work sector that will see it shrink by 75%.

The employment services industry is preparing for what one insider called “a bloodbath” as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moves to replace the work programme with the much smaller work and health programme.

Background (from here).

In the November 2015 spending review the government announced that the current work programme, due to end in March 2017, will be replaced by a ‘work and health’ programme.

Currently central government, through the Department for Work & Pensions, delivers the current work programme, which is a universal programme for the long-term unemployed. That has run for nearly five years and it will continue to run now until 31 March 2017.

The aim of the new Work and Health programme is to shift the focus from what might be termed “orthodox unemployment” to people with physical and psychological barriers to employment.  The work and health programme therefore will focus on the very long-term unemployed – two years-plus of unemployment – as one element of the client group and then another element, the health element, will be those citizens that have health barriers.

Localism, integration and devolution are significant factors in the development of the new Work & Health Programme. The government is specifically talking about co-design and co-commissioning with certain authorities: Manchester, London, Sheffield, Tees Valley, the North East, Liverpool and the West Midlands, relating to devolution deals.

Then (October)

DWP have today published more details about its commissioning model for its new Umbrella Agreement for the provision of Employment & Health Related Services (UAEHRS), the framework through which it will appoint providers for the new Work & Health Programme, as well as other potential DWP contracts.

The UAEHRS will account for £1.77 billion of DWP spend on contracted provision over 4 years, although it is not clear how much of this will be allocated to the Work & Health Programme. The UAEHRS will be divided into 7 Lot areas, based on Jobcentre Plus operational boundaries, namely: Central England, North East England, North West England, Southern England, Home Counties England, Wales, and a national England & Wales Lot. It is not clear from this whether or not the two co-commissioned Work & Health Programme areas, London and Manchester, are included under the UAERS arrangement. It is equally unclear whether or not the proposed Lot areas will also be applied as the final Contract Package Areas for the Work & Health Programme.

Only 5 providers will be accepted onto each regional UAEHRS Lot, although this may be extended if there is a tie-break for fifth place. Providers securing a place on two or more Lots will automatically be included within the national England & Wales Lot. The competition to select providers onto the UAEHRS will test providers against a number of criteria, including economic and financial standing, previous contract performance, supply chain management, service integration, implementation, delivery challenges, and stakeholder engagement. At the time of writing, the UAEHRS competition documents have not yet been released. This is, however, expected imminently, with a response deadline of the 9th November. Full details can be accessed at dwp.bravosolution.co.uk.

More details:

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal that seven of the 15 work programme prime contractors, including big private sector names such as Serco and Maximus, have not made it on to the initial shortlist for the new scheme.

The work and health programme shortlist, which is to be officially announced next week, begins a process in which the remaining eight work programme firms will compete with three new entrants for just six new regional contracts.

The final outcome, expected when contracts are awarded in late spring, could result in some firms being forced to abandon the market, or diversify into other contracted out public service areas, such as criminal justice or apprenticeships.

“This decimates the welfare to work industry. It represents the unravelling of nearly 20 years of unemployment support experience,” one industry insider told the Guardian.

Work coaches provide long-term unemployed clients with help to acquire a range of employment and life skills designed to increase their chances of finding work, such as CV writing, IT skills and literacy, as well as liaising with potential employers.

Thousands of work coach jobs are expected to be lost. “This means large job losses among really experienced frontline advisers, the majority of which are in charities,” said Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association.

The work and health programme is expected to start in the autumn and aims to provide specialist support for long-term unemployed people, especially those with health conditions or a disability.

Funding will be about £100m a year over four years. This is about a quarter of the current annual spending on the work programme, which closes at the end of March, and work choice, which will continue for a few months longer.

This is the bit which we’re particularly interested in.

The work programme – which was launched in 2011 by the then secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith – achieved mixed results and was fiercely criticised for the low numbers of disabled and chronically ill people it succeeded in supporting into work.

It was also dogged by controversy over alleged misconduct by work coaches, and the high salaries earned by top executives. Emma Harrison, the founder of A4E, was criticised for paying herself dividends of £8.6m in 2011, on top of a £365,000 annual salary.

Harrison, who had a brief spell as former prime minister David Cameron’s “families tsar” sold her personal stake in A4E to Staffline group in 2015 for a reported £20m. The relaunched company, PeoplePlus, is shortlisted in all six work and health programme areas.

Industry insiders expressed surprise that Maximus – which has gained notoriety as the provider of the DWP’s controversial “fit for work” tests – failed to make the shortlist as it had been seen as one of the best performing work programme providers in terms of getting long-term jobless people into sustainable jobs.

Much as we may weep at the fate of coachies and ‘providers’ we note an absence of information on what this latest scheme will mean for people who’ll be obliged to be on it.

Will there still be obligatory  ‘volunteering’, work ‘placements’ (free labour for  employers and the ‘voluntary sector’) and the rest of the rigmarole?

Will the usual ‘courses’ be on?

We have no idea whatsoever.

Behavioural “Insights” Team on Sanctions and “Identity-building activities.”

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Somewhere we hope never to go…

Most of us are familiar with the way the DWP Job Centre, and all the rest of the schemes we are on, are run on the basis of some kind of managerial theory which tries to ‘nudge’ (force) us to behave in order to fit into their idea of what we should do to get employment.

On the Work Programme this could involve being told to “get out of your comfort zone”, listening to heroic tales of how the trainers obtained their magnificent positions through hard work, or (job centre) somebody going through your Job Seeker’s Agreement with a fine tooth comb to find if you have spent every waking hour asking “giv us a job”.

People have made money out of theorising this practice, and no doubt drawing up the guidelines for DWP and Trainers to follow.

Indeed their is a whole ‘unit’, the Behavioural Insights Team, that produces hefty reports on such affairs.

There is a book, “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein” (2008) which has replaced How to Win Friends and Influence People” on every huckster’s book shelf.

This American text’s core message was summed up by the New York Review of Books as follows,

Nudging is about the self-conscious design of choice architecture. Put a certain choice architecture together with a certain heuristic and you will get a certain outcome. That’s the basic equation. So, if you want a person to reach a desirable outcome and you can’t change the heuristic she’s following, then you have to meddle with the choice architecture, setting up one that when matched with the given heuristic delivers the desirable outcome. That’s what we do when we nudge.

It’s all for your own Good. Jeremy Waldron.

Naturally the book came to the UK where this was the reception (Richard Reeves, Observer. 2008)

Nudge has become the ‘it’ book for politicos. Thaler is in the middle of a fortnight in the UK and is being courted and feted by the chattering, thinking, wonking classes. Everyone who is anyone has been nudged by the amiable prof (I bought him dinner). The Conservatives moved quickly to stake their claim to his brand of ‘libertarian paternalism’, seeing in it a way for the state to act non-coercively for the greater good.

The (gibberish sounding) Behavioural Insights Team) was the result.

The quality of the thinking, research and proposals of this merry crew is praised in the book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference.  David Halpern. 2016.

You can judge for yourself (Review: Public Finance)

Human beings are amazingly complicated, so you do get surprises coming up on a regular basis even if you’re fairly expert,” Halpern says. He cites the example of a big discrepancy in the results of a judgment test sat by applicants to the police. “It’s an online test – there are no human beings involved – and yet there was a massive difference in the pass rate between white and ethnic minority candidates, 60% versus 40%,” he explains. “There were lots of hypotheses about why this might be – you can imagine some of the ideas.”

We can indeed.

People are really complicated.

Wow.

The Unit came up with wizard wheezes like “Giving a day’s salary to charity” “Using a lottery to increase electoral participation rates” and “Increasing fine payment rates through text messages.” (more see Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known unofficially as the “Nudge Unit“)

And….”.”Personal commitment devices in Jobcentres.”

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP did not do “non-coercive”, so we had…sanctions to “nudge” us in the right direction.

As in, I, Daniel Blake.

Now we hear this from the Nudgers:

DWP must review welfare conditionality, policy unit set up by Downing Street says (Independent a few days ago)

The Government should review its practice of forcing benefit claimants to jump through hoops like attending Jobcentre meetings in order to claim benefits, a policy unit set up by Downing Street has recommended.

The Behavioral Insights Team, set up by David Cameron in 2010, said piling unemployed people with responsibilities on pain of sanction might actually be making it harder for them to get jobs.

The so-called Nudge Unit, which was part-privatised in 2014, warned that some Government policies were reducing so-called “cognitive bandwidth” or “headspace” of the people they were designed to help.

Is that all?

Not quite.

‘Nudge Unit’ u-turn on benefit sanctions could herald even more state intervention  replies Sue Jones in Welfare Weekly.

It’s very interesting that the Behavioural Insights Team now claim that the state using the threat of benefit sanctions may be “counterproductive”. The idea of increasing welfare conditionality and enlarging the scope and increasing the frequency of benefit sanctions originated from the behavioural economics theories of the Nudge Unit in the first place.

The increased use and rising severity of benefit sanctions became an integrated part of welfare “conditionality” in the Conservative’s Welfare “reform” Act, 2012. The current sanction regime is based on a principle borrowed from behavioural economics theory – an alleged cognitive bias we have called “loss aversion.” It refers to the idea that people’s tendency is to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. The idea is embedded in the use of sanctions to “nudge” people towards compliance with welfare rules of conditionality, by using a threat of punitive financial loss, since the longstanding, underpinning Conservative assumption is that people are unemployed because of alleged behavioural deficits and poor decision-making. Hence the need for policies that “rectify ” behaviour.

This is important,

….anyone curious as to how such tyrannical behaviour modification techniques like benefit sanctions arose from the bland language, inane, managementspeak acronyms and pseudo-scientific framework of “paternal libertarianism” – nudge – here is an interesting read: Employing BELIEF: Applying behavioural economics to welfare to work, which is focused almost exclusively on New Right small state obsessions. Pay particular attention to the part about the alleged cognitive bias called loss aversion, on page 7.

It gets worse.

A lot worse, drivel wise that is.

This is what they propose:

Work

1 Use identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work in order to improve the quality and sustainability of jobs that people find.

2 Collect longer-term and more holistic outcome measures of labour market interventions to understand their full impact on poverty.

3 Develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs.

Sue Jones states,

Proposals such as providing access to parenting programmes, “identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work”, “rainy day “savings, and “develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs” all sound like a New Right blame-storming exercise. Again, the problem of poverty is regarded as being intrinsic to the individual, rather than one that arises in a wider political, economic, cultural and social context.

People have to read the Welfare Weekly article in full.

But the impression I get is that this latest  jolly prank looks like subjecting claimants to more, endlessly more, attempts by this lot to shape our lives and tell us what to do.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Strive ‘Training’ Scheme that Fines 10 for a ‘Tut’ Under Investigation but Workfare Abuse Continues.

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This story broke last week (signaled here Hat-Tip Enigma):

A NORTH Ayrshire Council scheme designed to help out people who are searching for work has been lambasted for fining people who attend it for as little as tutting or having their hands in their pockets.

And the Department of Work and Pensions has now suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme pending investigation into the workings of the fines system.

North Ayrshire Council have hit back at the claims and have backed their programme but one person who attended the course, who wishes to remain anonymous, has hit out at the fines system and explained what it is like.

Herald.

Scheme that fines jobless 10p for tuts is investigated

JOB seekers in Ayrshire are worried they might be sanctioned for tutting.

It comes as details emerge of a controversial “job readiness” programme that fines those taking part for as little as chewing gum and having their hands in their pockets.

The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme in North Ayrshire while it investigated the claims.

The Lennox Partnership, which operates the programme, also runs similar courses with similar fines for West Dunbartonshire and Renfrew councils. It has also been asked to deliver the course four times nationally for service provider Ingeus, although no fines are involved in those courses.

Fines start off as little as 10p for tutting, or having hands in pockets, but can rise up to £1 for swearing or £5 for using phones.

One job seeker told our sister paper, the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, that the fines had even left one of his fellow course mates in debt. “Now most of these fines are really cheap for things like hands in pockets etc … but checking your phone or having it go off outside of break time is an instant £5 fine and if you don’t pay it on the spot you get kicked off the course … and since the Job Centre sent me there, getting kicked off the course is an instant sanction.

“One person got fined when their phone went off but only had £3 and had to borrow the rest from other people on the course.”

The Lennox Partnership insisted that non-payment of a fine would not lead to sanctions, and said no one on the programme has been sanctioned.

A spokeswoman for the partnership said: “The fine system replicates behaviours that would not be acceptable in most workplaces and is utilised as a preventative measure to change those behaviours, which could subsequently impact on clients both securing and sustaining work.

“We have been delivering STRIVE in North Ayrshire since 2011 and the fine system has been an integral part of all delivery. Our success rates have seen 80 per cent of graduates securing employment and 84 per cent retention rates with employers across a range of industry sectors. This demonstrates the success of STRIVE and what we are trying to achieve.”

Unemployed people taking part in STRIVE must wear “business dress”, and, according to the Lennox Partnership’s website, obey: “the same rules / disciplines that would be expected during a probationary period in a new job”.

The aim of the course is to “empower participants and develop the soft skills, the attitudes and behaviours that employers in the job market are seeking”.

Kim McLauchlan, a 19-year-old from Kilwinning, who went through the programme recently and now works as a chef, told The National she had found the experience rewarding: “I was such a quiet person. I’d be the last person to speak in a group. They helped me get the confidence to do the job I’m doing today.”

STRIVE fines were all part of the “learning process”, she said.

A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council, defending the scheme, said: “The STRIVE programme has an extremely successful track record with 90 per cent of candidates on our most recent programme going on to secure employment. Most participants find the course highly beneficial and carry forward the skills learned into their working life.”

“The ‘fine’ system is used as a preventative measure to change behaviours and instil a professional attitude that employers will be impressed with.

“Any monies collected go towards a fund to provide provision for interview clothing, haircuts and interview travel expenses.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have suspended the referral of claimants to North Ayrshire Council’s STRIVE programme while we investigate these claims.”

The Void has looked at the scandal.

Even the DWP are appalled, with the Daily Record reporting they have suspended referrals to the STRIVE  programme run by the Lennox Partnership.  Those behind the schme are unrepentent, with North Ayrshire Council claiming that they are just trying to “change behaviours and instil a professional attitude”.  Participants who refuse to pay the fines are required to leave the course raising fears they may face benefit sanctions for refusing to take part in ‘work related activity’

You can tell the Lennox Partnership what you think of this vile practice on twitter @TheLennoxP.

This however is yet to face a serious investigation:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) insists it is a voluntary scheme known as a “sector-based work academy”, which offers benefit recipients a chance to gain work experience with the possibility of a job at the end.

However McGregor, who has eight years’ experience working in the care sector, said he felt he was being “railroaded” into taking part in the scheme, which is taking place at Kyle Court and Hillside View Care Homes in Paisley.

A letter sent to him states in certain circumstances benefits may be stopped if the claimant, without good reason, does not “take the opportunity of a place on an employment programme or training scheme”.

McGregor said he refused to participate in the scheme as a matter of principle and that he was only promised a “one-to-one” interview at the end of the scheme.

He said: “I went on a people handling course for one day, then I was meant to start and do a 36-hour week for six weeks without any pay, apart from my unemployment money.

“I used to earn £110 a night for a 12-hour shift, but they are expecting me to do 36 hours for £73.10, it is absolutely shocking.

“You are looking after people who are vulnerable – such as taking them to the toilet.

“I have no qualms about the job, I did that job for years, but I want to be paid for it.

“They are saying it is six weeks probationary, but they could pay me – and at the end of that time if they don’t think I am fit to work there they can tell me to go somewhere else.”

He added: “They didn’t ask what days would suit you, it was basically you were to work to their rota.

“I don’t know how they can turn round and say it is completely voluntary.”

Sarah Glynn, of the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, said they were against the principle of anyone being made to work for their benefits.

“A lot of things are branded as work experience and they are not, they are free labour,” she said. “Do you need work experience stacking shelves? That is not work experience, that is exploitation.

“It is affecting the whole labour market as these are jobs that people should be paid for.

“Even if people have no qualifications and they have come straight from school, they shouldn’t be asked to work for nothing – if they are working they should be paid for it, it should just be a basic principle.”

Glynn said she had made a complaint to the Care Inspectorate over the scheme, which confirmed the issue had been raised and information was being carefully assessed.

The DWP said all participating claimants had to meet eligibility criteria including identification and disclosure checks, references and a successful application form and interview to ensure they were suitable for working with elderly and vulnerable people.

It confirmed that once participants agreed to take place in a DWP “sector-based work academy” they could risk being sanctioned if they failed to meet conditions. These can include a failure to meet “basic standards of good behaviour”, according to the letter sent to McGregor.

The Herald.

Is it just because my dad was Scottish but is it true that because the Scots are pretty stroppy and likely to complain that these scandals come out so quickly?

I would bet there’s plenty going on in the rest of the country.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

Unemployment Business Prospering as Seetec Boss Rakes it in and Expands Empire

with 69 comments

https://i2.wp.com/s3.mirror.co.uk/mirror/ampp3d/December-14/11/how-workfare-affects-your-chances.jpg

SEETEC has offices in Ipswich, running the Work programme, and (until George Osborne pulled the plug on that nice little earner) and the Help to Work Workfare programme.  Many of our readers are all too familiar with this company which lives off public money.

It now runs one of the newly privatised probation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Private Eye this week (No 1411)  reports that this arm of Seetec  is already in  “trouble”. An audit completed before Christmas found “problems” with Seetc and South Yorkshire CRC, run – no you could not make this up – by French catering and cleaning firm, Sodexo.

Private Eye notes that this bunch of chancers had a turnover of £1.4 million; today this stands at more than £80 million, largely by profiteering from state money.

The report states that Seetec was part the national Help to Work – that is Workfare schemes, work for no pay –  only got 4.7% of participants into work.

Seetec, the articles notes, had a “mixed” performance. People round here know just how “mixed up” this scheme was.

Private Eye says that Seetec’s owner-boss Peter Cooper got £1.6 million in dividends alone last year.

Here is their latest scheme to expand their empire and rake in more income from the public purse:

Seetec launches new Skills Academies

Over 40 guests attended the launch of the Seetec Skills Academies at Essex County Cricket Club on Wednesday 25th November with guest of honour Graham Gooch OBE.

Seetec, an Essex based skills and employment specialist which has been supporting people back to work and improving their skills for over 30 years, was delighted Graham Gooch could attend the launch of its exciting new skills provision and celebrate the new partnership with Essex County Cricket Club.

This is their own puff:

Seetec has over 29 years experience as one of the UK’s leading employment and skills training providers, supporting over 100,000 customers per annum to move into sustained employment.   Seetec delivers large scale national contracts such as the Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme across 3 regions as well as various ESF programmes through the Skills Funding Agency and Apprenticeships.

Seetec also delivers a range of contracts designed for specific customer groups such as our Work Choice contract for disabled customers and local programmes for lone parents, young people and NEETs, ex-offenders and graduates.

Seetec.

Last we forget another gang running the Unemployment Business here is a report from earlier this month.

Scandal-hit welfare-to-work agency A4E sees its profits quadruple

A4E, the welfare-to-work agency rocked by fraud allegations which led to the resignation of its founder and chairwoman Emma Harrison in 2012, saw turnover fall but profits quadruple last year.

The firm, which is a key partner to government schemes, said the number of UK jobseekers referred to it was falling due to the economic recovery, but that it was seeing an increase in its Australian operation.

In the last set of accounts before it was bought by rival Staffline Group, A4E recorded turnover of £166million in the year to March 2015, down from £189million, and profits of £9.2million, up from £2.3million, due mainly to a fall in operating expenses.

Harrison, who has appeared in TV’s Secret Millionaire, set up A4E in 1991 but resigned after six staff were jailed and four received suspended sentences for falsifying the number of people helped back into work.

Harrison, who stepped down as David Cameron’s families tsar, was also criticised for taking an £8.6million dividend from A4E on top of her £365,000-a-year salary.

Staffline has said that after a full audit by the Department for Work and Pensions, systems were now in place to prevent any recurrence at the Sheffield-based company.

Sure…..

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

Provider Forms: “Not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.” Freedom of Information response from the DWP.

with 51 comments

This is important: Hat-Tip:  jj.joop.

We signal that we are only publishing the response, and this cannot be taken as in itself guidance for any form of action by claimants whatsoever.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Central Freedom of Information Team

[DWP request email]

Our reference: VTR FOI 152

Date:
 28 January 2015

HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request ‘Signing Provider Documentation‘ (see Here)

Dear Mr Allen 
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 14 January 2016. You asked

Please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP stating it is a  mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Also please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP detailing exactly what action the DWP or a provider can take against a claimant who has agreed to participate in a provider led mandatory activity or programme but who has also declined to fill or sign any provider forms or documents. By forms and documents, I mean: Health and safety checklist, claimant code
of practice, action plans, timesheets, induction checklist sheets, data protection waivers, and so on.

It is not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider  forms or    documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Because it is not mandatory, there is no recorded data held detailing any action DWP or a provider can take against those who have declined to sign
said forms or documents.

Participants are required to do all they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work.

Should a participant decline to sign the provider’s forms, this does not mean that they do not have to participate in the programme.

The referral letter given to a participant by Jobcentre Plus details the potential consequences for failing to participate as required.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Charges for Freedom of Information requests are being considered b.y commission reviewing laws

Body tasked with proposing changes to FoI laws could propose people pay a fee for requests, it has emerged as call for evidence issued.

Telegraph. October 2015. 

stop-foia-restrictionsThe government has set up a Commission to examine the Freedom of Information Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

In a letter co-ordinated by the Campaign, over 140 media bodies, campaign groups and others wrote to the Prime Minister in September 2015, expressing concern about the Commission’s composition and terms of reference.

Belatedly, the Commission issued a consultation paper which suggested it is considering sweeping restrictions to the legislation, including:

  • imposing charges for requests
  • making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds
  • making it more difficult to obtain public authorities’ internal discussions, or excluding some from access altogether
  • strengthening ministers’ powers to veto disclosures
  • changing the way the Act is enforced.

The Campaign together with ARTICLE 19 held a briefing meeting on October 21 2015 for organisations proposing to respond to the consultation. The meeting was attended by nearly 60 organisations. The slides from the meeting are available here.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am